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• gene flow and its possible consequences
• non-target species and biodiversity impacts
• resistance risk assessment and management
• transgene expression and locus structure
• problem formulation and options assessment
• useful links to scientific resources

Teaching Tools: Non-target and biodiversity impacts

In the agricultural and natural environments, GM crops and their transgene products will come into contact with hundreds of non-target species with important ecological functions.

This section has developed a process for identifying the non-target species and ecological processes most likely to be at risk, and how. It looks at exposure to the transgene product, and how to test what impact the transgene product might have if it accumulates in the food webs of the environment receiving the GM crop.

Course content for Non-target and Biodiversity Risk Assessment

Purpose: This course will teach participants to understand the need for risk assessment of biodiversity and non-target impacts, and to use this knowledge to do a case study risk assessment for a particular GM crop during the course.

Participant outcomes: Participants will learn an approach that narrows down all possible biodiversity impacts and focuses on hypotheses of most likely risks and how they can be tested. The course covers biological control and natural enemies (predators and parasitoids), pathogens, soil ecosystem functions and organisms, species of particular conservation concern, cultural or economic significance, weeds and other plants in and around the crop, and other aspects of biodiversity.

During the course, participants will:

    • Get an overview of kinds of potential adverse effects on biodiversity and non-target species from GM crops and how they relate to risk assessment endpoints

    • Use the selection matrix tool to conduct a rapid exposure and adverse effects characterization for functional groups of biodiversity, that results in a ranked list of priority species and processes associated with a potential adverse effect

    • Construct hypothetical exposure pathways for species, using information on transgene expression, fate and movement of the transgenic plant parts and the transgene product, and food webs and trophic links

    • Identify adverse effects pathways, and how they relate to risk assessment endpoints and measurement endpoints

    • Construct testable risk hypotheses and identify the key point that could falsify the hypothesis (and so disprove the potential risk)

    Design experiments in lab, greenhouse and field and be able to judge advantages and disadvantages of each

    • Learn how lack of information and uncertainty influence outcomes and approaches to deal with these, including precaution

Further Information

Read more in the project books!

a flow chart of the methodology for prioritising non-target species and ecological processes


Pentatomid bug with boll weevil

parasitised caterpillar

spider on a cotton leaf

wasp parasitoid (Braconid)